We had the opportunity to interview the Axie Infinity team about their game. For those who aren’t aware, Axie Infinity is a new game built on Ethereum where the game assets are stored on the blockchain. In addition to being a ‘crypto-collectible’, the Axie team has focused more on the gameplay, to make it more interesting for players. Many of the early CryptoKitties players have now found a home with the Axie team. We had a chance to interview the team.
Tell us a bit more about how the team came together and how the idea of Axie was formed.
In late december Trung came to me with an idea for a blockchain game. He showed me CryptoKitties which was obviously very successful. However, we believed that a game with better graphics, animations, and a battle system that interlocks with the gene system could propel both crypto collectibles and blockchain gaming forward.
My first mission was to lay out a vision for the creatures and gameplay. I grew up surrounded by nature and fascinating animals in Vietnam. As a child I treasured my pet fish and turtles. I wanted our game to bring about an organic sense of awe, something akin to what a pet owner feels when they raise and bond with their animals.
In order to achieve this I designed the game from not only a gamer and collector’s standpoint, but also from a pet owner’s. That’s how I got the ideas for terrariums since every pet owner wants to show off their animals!
The first sketch I did of an Axie was Puff, our Axie #1 in the game. It was a quick sketch, everything flowing from instinct. The name of the project was originally Chimera because Axies are a mixture of all the coolest body parts that I’ve observed in nature. Puff has the gills of an axolotl, antlers, and a fish tail. Axie Infinity isn’t confined by the rules of nature, just the laws of our genetic system which allows for potentially infinite combinations of Axies. Kotaro and Ginger took longer to plan and then sketch out. Once those were done I delivered them to Trung. We changed the name to Axie Infinity and that set off a series of amazing events that we hope will play a role in raising the profile of decentralized games.
Some large VCs like A16Z and USV are betting on cryptoassets and have invested in CryptoKitties. How do you see the market evolve? Do you see a few cryptoasset networks like CryptoKitties dominate the market or do you see a long-tail of issuers succeeding in the market?
I think we’re at a super interesting time in the decentralized game space. Institutional capital has seen the potential but most of the decentralized games on the market right now are closer to decentralized “casinos” or “pyramid schemes”. This has given institutional investors few options when seeking to deploy their capital into the space.
However, there are a handful of legitimate projects that are gaining traction and pushing the space forward. I don’t think Cryptokitties will dominate the market– they are more analogous to beanie babies which piggy-backed off of Ebay during the internet era. We see ourselves more akin to Pokemon and Neopets. There will be plenty of room for dapps and I expect Cryptokitties and Axiom Zen to help build out the infrastructure for the decentralized app space more so than trying to crush anyone they deem “competitors”. There are so few users now, we need the pie to grow rather than fight over the slices.
What’s your general sense of cryptoassets as a ‘collectible’ or ‘asset’ (i.e. something you just hold on to) vs. use for gaming (i.e. something you use for game play)? Which use would dominate in the community for Axie?
We see Axies as both collectibles and toys that you can use to play our game with. The problem with other cryptocollectibles so far are that they very little proven utility so collectors and players only have aesthetics and rarity go on to determine value.
However, in Axie Infinity, players can battle their axies and actually watch an animated battle take place. Therefore, we believe the utlity of an axie in battle will be one of the key determinants of value alongside scarcity and aesthetics.
Tell us a little more about the team, where they are from, their background in gaming and blockchain, and any other interesting tidbits about the members.
My name is Trung Nguyen, I left my role as a software engineer with a US-based startup to work on Axie Infinity full time. I am the lead engineer of Axie Infinity and have had a hand in all aspects of development: from developing and deploying our smart contracts to implementation and design of our product. I’ve been interested in MOBA and FPS games for most of my life but this is my the first game i’m building.
Masume has been designing and creating games for most of his life. In elementary school, he designed games similar to Dungeons & Dragons and even his own version of the Pokemon card game for his classmates. So since an early age, he’s also owned rare+ exotic pets which I think has affected the game. For example, the terrarium mode was inspired by his experiences as a pet owner. Everyone wants to show off their pets!
Jihoz, our community manager has a background in evolutionary biology, military strategy, and investing. He’s also one of the top CryptoKitties players in the world so he has a lot of really good insights based on past experiences which is incredible since this space is basically 4 months old.
Give us a quick pitch to CryptoKitties players why they should also check out Axie.
First, I’d like to point out the four crucial flaws in CryptoKitties.
- Due to the high breeding costs, without a steady stream of new CryptoKitties players, much of the eth will flow into the hands of the auto-birthers in the long run.
- It is impossible for your Cryptokitty to be improved by sinking in your time and effort. In fact, if you breed your cryptokitty, the value of it goes down. So rather than being able to improve your token by “playing” with it, you degrade it. Not ideal.
- Because the kitties have so little utility now, the only real way to value them is through scarcity + aesthetics. New players have a hard time learning the breeding and gene systems so there is a big barrier to entry and it’s quite hard to answer the question “what should I buy as my first Kitty”.
- Axiom set an arbitrary limit of 50,000 gen 0’s. That might be way too many, or way too little depending on the size of their future user-base – they have boxed themselves into a corner. Many community members are worried about what will happen to the game after November.
In comparison, we have done everything we can to avoid the autobirther solution that Cryptokitties used. Our breeding costs are .002 ETH (as opposed to .008 ETH in CryptoKitties), and we are looking at ways to lower this.
Players will be able to improve their Axies by battling them and raising them to gain exp points. Exp points can be used to breed, but they can also be used to upgrade body parts! Thus, our game has a time and effort sink that should allow an actual sense of progression and a potential way for players to earn eth by leveling up their Axies and then selling them to someone who lacks the time or will to do the same. We want our players to actually use their Axies.
How much of the game is run on Ethereum smart contracts, and what parts are centralized?
We’ve kept all the genes and ownership data on the blockchain. The egg sales for new trait releases are on a smart contract and so was the sales contract for the pre-sale.
Our battle system will be a hybrid system where we will have some elements on a contract but we also want to add fun centralized elements like entrancing battle animations and a cool soundtrack. There is also potential to add a real time- off chain battle system in the future as well.
Axie battles are a new and interesting feature compared to say CryptoKitties. Tell us a little more about the battle mechanics – how much is determined by the Axies’ characteristics and how much by luck? If you have a certain Axie, would it always (statistically speaking) be able to win? How much of the battle dynamics is on the blockchain?
We believe that our battle system is unlike any other battle game ever released. Before battle, players will choose their team of 3 Axies, the moves that the axies bring into battle, the order that the moves will be used in, and the “positioning” of their axies on a 3 v 3 special battle terrarium.
An Axie’s genes will determine it’s base stats and also the moves that it can bring into battle. There will definitely be an RNG (Random Number Generator) element to the battles, but in the long run, teams that synergize well together can do quite well in terms of % win rate.
We believe that the ‘meta’ for the game will be constantly evolving. If a certain strategy is overpowered, we anticipate players breeding axis that can act as “counters” to those strategies. In this way, Axie Infinity might actually be self-balancing— a reflection of the way nature works.
For the battles and mini-games, are the rewards to the winner paid out in ETH?
Players will be rewarded experience points and other in game points that they can then use to improve their axies to reflect the time and effort they have sunk into their pet. We do plan on having tournaments with interesting prizes including ETH prizes in the future!
Can you explain the mechanics of how raising an Axie in the Terrarium helps them later in say battles? Does this cost money?
Terrariums will help Axie Owners organize their collections and help them power up their axies. We are currently developing the system and hope to keep as much of it as off-chain as possible to reduce transaction costs and aid in user experience.
Axie seems to have more gameplay elements than other such games in the marketplace. What about the collector-friendly aspects of the game (say something along the lines of fancies in CK)?
There are, and will be some super rare and unique Axies for collectors to accumulate. For starters, the Pre-Sale Origin Axes have mystic parts which will never be released outside of the origin gene pool. We have retired all origin traits and capped the supply of Origin Axies at 4500 meaning collectors that wish to obtain mystic parts will need to either purchase an Axie with Mystic parts or unlock an origin Axie using AOC tokens— a special in game currency that is exchangeable at a 5-1 rate for our remaining supply of origin Axies. The non-mystic origin traits will also never be released from Axie Infinities egg sales so players will need to buy Axies with those traits from the market, buy eggs from origin axis owners, or use AOC to purchase origin axies in order to access these parts(and their corresponding battle moves).
We also plan on introducing a cool achievements system which will add a bunch of collectibility to the Axies.
How does the Axie team make money from the game?
We have many different sources of potential revenue. We will be selling Axies with new body parts from our Egg shop starting in early May and will also launch terrariums and terrarium decorations for sale soon after.
What’s the launch schedule look like for the different elements of the game?
We released the breeding system on May 4th. We will be starting our battle beta in July!”
Are there any specific game features you’re most excited about?
I think we’re super excited for the battle animations— they look amazing and can’t wait to share them with the community.
Do you have anything else for the community to add?
The best way to learn about the game and get started is to join our discord! Ask for Jihoz— he’s been known to give private tutoring lessons to new players over discord voice.